Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun: Australia to process United Nations refugee referral

  • Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun: Australia to process United Nations refugee referral

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun: Australia to process United Nations refugee referral

The renewed interest in Araibi's case comes after Saudi asylum seeker Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, found herself facing deportation from Bangkok airport on Sunday.

Confined to an airport transit hotel, Alqunun conducted an online appeal for help, garnering tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials.

Al-Qunun, who barricaded herself in a hotel at Bangkok airport to prevent officials from deporting her after fleeing her family in Kuwait, has been granted refugee status by the United Nations refugee office and is hoping to receive asylum in Australia.

The Thai authorities' earlier willingness to return al-Qunun to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia could help her meet that standard.

She had been intending to fly from there to Australia to seek asylum.

Her father, who denies mistreating her, will remain in Bangkok "until he knows which country she is going to", Thailand's immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters on Thursday.

"He wanted to make sure that his daughter was safe...he told me that he wanted to take her home", General Surachate said, adding that Ms Alqunun's father denied allegation her family was abusing her physically and emotionally. In downtown Sydney on Thursday, four women dressed in jeans and calling themselves the Secret Sisterhood held a topless protest outside the building housing the Saudi Consulate, calling on Australia to grant Alqunun residency. It said her case had inspired millions and should remind people of the bravery and sacrifices of people who flee their native lands for safety. Surachate described the father as being a governor in Saudi Arabia. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", General Surachate said.

It noted that Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee and "torture survivor" from Bahrain granted residence in Australia, has been detained by Thailand since November awaiting a hearing on a Bahraini extradition request.

AlAraibi was convicted for vandalising a police station in Bahrain and sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.

In a statement ahead of her trip, Payne said she would lobby for the return to Australia of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Alaraibi, who was granted refugee status there after fleeing a crackdown during the Arab Spring.

"This player, a Bahrain national, is now being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain, where he was previously convicted of a criminal offence, the validity of which he strongly contests", it said.

"I have reiterated those concerns to both ministers".

Al-Araibi, a professional footballer, was arrested while on holiday in Thailand with his wife.

But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Ms al-Qunun will not be given any "special treatment". He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said Ms Qunun had renounced Islam, which puts her at "serious risk" of prosecution in Saudi Arabia.

Pressure on world football's governing body FIFA, the AFC and the governments of Bahrain and Thailand needed to continue, he said.

Bahrain, which is a close ally of Britain and hosts the USA navy's Fifth Fleet, has been the scene of a low-level insurgency ever since a failed uprising inspired by 2011's Arab spring.

"Sheikh Salman is obligated to support Hakeem".

A spokesman told The Guardian: "FFA confirms it has also held direct dialogue with senior officials from Fifa, AFC and the Football Association of Thailand". "The silence of the Asian Football Confederation is not just confounding, it's absolutely disgraceful", he said.